What Does Sugar Mean In China?-12 Types

In Chinese culture, various symbols and objects hold deep meanings and are associated with different aspects of life. One such symbol is sugar, which has significant cultural and symbolic implications in China. This article explores the multifaceted meanings of sugar in Chinese culture and its various uses and representations.

what is Sugar?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and one of the most commonly used sweeteners in the world. Chemically, sugar refers to a group of organic compounds, including sucrose, glucose, fructose, and others. The most commonly known and widely used type of sugar is sucrose, which is obtained from sugarcane or sugar beet plants.

Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning it is composed of two simple sugar molecules bonded together. It is made up of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. When we refer to “sugar” in everyday language, we usually mean sucrose, the granulated or crystalline sweet substance we use in baking, cooking, and sweetening beverages.

Sugar has a wide range of applications in food and beverages, serving primarily as a sweetener to enhance the taste of various dishes and products. Besides its sweetness, sugar also plays a crucial role in the texture, browning, and preservation of certain foods. It is used in baking to add sweetness and help create a tender texture in baked goods.

Apart from culinary uses, sugar is also used in the production of various goods, such as candies, chocolates, and syrups. Additionally, it is a key ingredient in the fermentation process for producing alcoholic beverages like wine and beer.

While sugar adds sweetness and enhances the taste of many foods and beverages, excessive consumption of added sugars has been linked to various health concerns, such as obesity, tooth decay, and certain metabolic disorders. Therefore, it is essential to consume sugar in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

what country does sugar come from?

World’s Top 10 Sugar-Producing Countries Ranking:


With the help of sugarcane production, Brazil is the world’s largest sugar-producing country and a key player in the local economy’s development. Brazil is not only a major sugar producer but also a significant exporter. Approximately 42.4% of the world’s sugar comes from Brazil, making it the primary exporter with over 40% of the global share. The sugar industry generates around $4.4 billion in revenue annually and provides employment to one million people. Brazil produces 25% of the world’s sugar and ethanol, accounting for 80% of the global sugar output.


India ranks as the second-largest sugar-producing country globally and is a leader in sugarcane production worldwide. With its favorable tropical climate and developed agriculture and industry, India contributes nearly 14% of the world’s sugar production. The sugar industry’s investments in India amount to about 1.25 lakh crore rupees, providing livelihoods to 2.86 lakh workers. Major sugar-producing states in India include Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Karnataka, Bihar, and Andhra Pradesh.


China is the third-largest sugar-producing country in the world, trailing behind Brazil and India. Its vast land area and well-developed agriculture contribute to its sugar production. Over the past decade, China has accounted for over 90% of the country’s total sugar production. China’s sugar industry includes 270 operating sugar mills, with 233 being sugarcane mills and 37 being sugar beet mills. Major sugarcane production regions in China are Guangxi, Yunnan, and western Guangdong.


Thailand’s tropical climate makes it suitable for sugarcane cultivation, and it has become one of the leading sugar-exporting countries due to relatively low domestic demand and transportation costs. Recent growth in sugar production has mainly come from expanding in the northern and northeastern regions. The United States Department of Agriculture predicts significant increases in sugar production in the coming years.


Pakistan is also one of the world’s largest sugar-producing countries. Certain regions of Pakistan have an ideal climate for sugarcane growth, and the sugar content of the cane is high. The sugar industry in Pakistan relies entirely on sugarcane production, though some sugar is also produced from sugar beets in the northern regions. Sugarcane cultivation provides employment to four million people in Pakistan, accounting for approximately 12.14% of the total agricultural workforce.


Mexico ranks as the sixth-largest sugar-producing country in the world, contributing to around 0.5% of Mexico’s GDP. It occupies an area of approximately 1.6 million acres, making it the second-largest crop area after maize. Veracruz is the leading sugarcane-producing state in Mexico, followed by Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, and Oaxaca.


Colombia is the world’s second-largest producer of non-centrifugal sugar, second only to India. It has over a hundred sugar mills and is a significant contributor to the sugar supply worldwide. 80% of sugar production in Colombia occurs on farms of fewer than five hectares, providing livelihoods to about 120,000 subsistence farmers.


The Philippines is the world’s eighth-largest sugar-producing country and the second-largest within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), trailing behind Thailand. The sugar industry plays a significant role in the country’s economic growth, producing between 2.5 to 2.7 million tons of sugar annually.


Indonesia’s sugar industry plays a vital role in the country’s economic growth, producing between 2.5 to 2.7 million tons of sugar annually, with an estimated cost of around 2.5 trillion Indonesian rupiahs. Currently, Indonesia has 63 sugar mills, owned by 18 companies. The government plans to revitalize existing sugar mills, expand sugarcane cultivation, and establish new sugar mills in collaboration with the private sector to achieve self-sufficiency.

United States:

The United States is one of the world’s largest sugar-producing and consuming countries. The annual sugar production in the U.S. is significant, with a domestic production of 8.4 million tons and an annual consumption of 12 million tons. Sugarcane and other crops are rotated in the U.S., primarily concentrated in states like Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Nebraska, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California. The average sugarcane yield per acre is 28 tons, but significant variations in sugar production can be seen across different regions.

does china produce sugar?

Yes, China does produce sugar. China is the world’s third-largest producer of sugar, following Brazil and India. Sugarcane is the primary source of sugar production in China. The country has a favorable tropical and subtropical climate that is suitable for growing sugarcane.

China’s sugar industry includes hundreds of sugarcane mills scattered throughout various regions, with Guangxi, Yunnan, and Guangdong being the major sugarcane-producing areas. In addition to being one of the leading producers, China is also a significant consumer of sugar due to its large population and diverse food and beverage industries.

While sugarcane is the predominant source of sugar in China, sugar beets are also cultivated in certain regions, particularly in the northern parts of the country. However, sugarcane remains the main contributor to China’s sugar production.

what is sugar called in Chinese?

In Chinese, sugar is called “糖” (táng). The character “糖” represents the sweet substance that is widely used as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in various food and beverage preparations. It is the standard modern term for sugar in the Chinese language.

“In ancient times, sugar was known as ‘饴’ (yí) or ‘饧’ (xíng). ‘饴’ and ‘饧’ primarily referred to processed maltose products. Relatively speaking, ‘饧’ denoted a slightly firmer version of ‘饴’.

In ancient times, sugar was referred to as ‘糖霜’ (tángshuāng), ‘砂糖’ (shātáng), or ‘石蜜’ (shímì). The term ‘糖霜’ is said to be associated with Su Dongpo, a renowned ci poet from the Northern Song dynasty. It is said that when Su Dongpo was in the Shu region, he discovered a sweet treat made by mixing roasted powder with sugar syrup. The dessert had a dry and loose appearance, as white as frost. Upon eating it, the sugar syrup and powder would instantly melt, bringing a sweet taste straight to the heart and tongue. Impressed, Su Dongpo gave it the name ‘糖霜’ (tángshuāng).”

style of sugar in China

Refined White Sugar: commonly known as granulated sugar, it is a granular crystal. Depending on the crystal size, there are three types: coarse, medium, and fine. Its characteristics include high purity, low moisture content, and minimal impurities. Domestic granulated sugar has a purity level of over 99.45% and a moisture content below 0.12%. It is categorized into three grades: premium, first-grade, and second-grade, all suitable for bread and pastry production.

Raw Sugar: unrefined raw sugar with lower purity, more impurities, higher moisture, and a light yellow color. Examples include domestic grade two sugar, Brazilian sugar, and Cuban sugar.

Fine Crystal Sugar: has small and uniform crystals, a white color, and a soft and fluffy texture. Its purity is lower than white sugar, with a sugar content of around 98% and moisture below 2%. Due to its higher cost, it is used in high-end food products.

Brown Sugar: has granular crystals, a brownish-yellow color, and higher impurities, often used for special purposes.

Brown Sugar (Panela or Yellow Sugar): typically produced using traditional methods, it has the highest impurity and the lowest purity. However, it has a unique flavor and quickly adds color in baking, making it suitable for certain applications.

Brown Sugar Powder: has slightly higher purity than brown sugar and is more convenient for measuring, used in larger quantities than brown sugar.

Rock Sugar and Rock Sugar Tablets: less convenient for measurement, higher cost, and less common in use, mainly found in high-end food products.

Glucose Powder and Glucose Syrup: obtained by enzymatic hydrolysis of starch or under acidic conditions, glucose syrup is spray-dried to produce glucose powder, generally containing 8% moisture.

Malt Blocks and Maltose Syrup: produced from barley or wheat by the action of malt enzymes and water. In China, the finished product is commonly called “饴糖” (yí táng).

Invert Syrup: obtained by heating sucrose with water in the presence of hydrochloric acid. It is characterized by low viscosity and good transparency, essential for making traditional Cantonese mooncakes.

Fructose Syrup (Isomer Syrup): a portion of glucose in invert syrup is converted into fructose under the action of glucose isomerase. Industrial production of fructose syrup typically has an isomerization rate of 42%, with sweetness equivalent to sucrose. Higher isomerization rates can produce greater sweetness.

Honey: secretion from plant nectar glands with relatively high sweetness. Approximately 60% to 80% is easily absorbable monosaccharides by the human body, and it has a distinctive flavor.

Molasses: the residual liquid left after syrup is concentrated during sugar refining, with the highest impurities. However, it has a unique aroma and is commonly used in the production of whole wheat bread.

Caramel: a confection made by heating granulated sugar to nearly or above 115°C, giving it a light yellow to almost coffee-colored appearance with a caramel flavor. It is generally used for making pudding and should be consumed in moderation as excessive consumption may be harmful.

what is sugar made from in China?

Sugar crops are crops grown to provide raw materials for the sugar industry. The main sugar crops include sugarcane, sugar beets, and sweet sorghum, among others. In northern China, sugar beets are the main source, while in southern China, sugarcane dominates. The trend of sugar beets expanding southward and sugarcane moving northward is strengthening. The by-products of these crops after processing can be used as industrial materials such as alcohol, papermaking, fibers, or as animal feed. Sugar crops have strict requirements for natural conditions; they thrive in suitable climates, rainfall, and soil, but their yields decrease if the conditions are not favorable. Therefore, it is important to develop sugar crops based on local conditions and concentrate their cultivation appropriately, which can reduce the use of arable land while producing more sugar crops efficiently.

The main raw materials for sugar production are sugarcane, which is a tall, green-stalked plant, and sugar beets, which have swollen roots growing underground. Their juice is extracted and collected to be converted into sugar crystals. In China, sugar beets are generally used as raw materials for sugar production in the northern regions, while sugarcane is commonly used in the southern regions.

China is one of the earliest countries to produce sugar, and sugar in ancient China mainly had the following sources.

sugar beets

Yitang :

During the early stage of sugar production, ancient China primarily relied on yitang (饴糖) and sugarcane sugar, with yitang holding a relatively important position.

Yitang refers to a food product made from fermentation and saccharification of grains such as corn and barley. In simpler terms, it is sugar produced through the fermentation of grains. As early as the Western Zhou Dynasty, there are records about yitang. The Book of Songs (Shijing) contains the verse “Zhouyuan wūwū, jǐnshū rú yí,” which describes the fertile land of Zhou, where even wild vegetables such as jinqu (a type of vegetable) and kujun (a type of wild lettuce) taste as sweet as yitang. The “Qili” section of the “Rites of Zhou” lists “yimi (饴蜜) as the representative of the ‘sweet’ taste among the five flavors.

Yitang, also known as maltose syrup or maltose candy, is a type of starch sugar. The production method of yitang is mentioned by Jia Sixie, an agriculturalist from the Northern Wei Dynasty, in his book “Qimin Yaoshu”: “Using sorghum and millet, the consistency should be like clear water.” In his book, there are many detailed discussions on the production of yitang. As time progressed, people’s taste preferences for yitang also gradually improved. For example, Kou Zongshi, a pharmacist from the Song Dynasty, pointed out in his book “Bencao Yanyi” that the best raw materials for making yitang were: “Glutinous and millet are the best, the others are not suitable.” However, after the Tang Dynasty, the popularity of yitang gradually declined.

Sugarcane Sugar:

In addition to yitang, sugarcane was also an important source of sugar in ancient China. Sugarcane sugar was referred to as “shì mì” (石蜜) or “táng shuāng” (糖霜) in ancient times. “Shì mì” refers to block-shaped sugarcane sugar. In “Liangzhou Yiwu Zhi” written by Yang Fu of the Eastern Han Dynasty, it is described as follows: “Shì mì is not a type of stone, but rather a name derived from a false appearance. It is actually sugarcane juice boiled and exposed to the sun until it solidifies like stone, but its texture is very light, so it is called ‘shì mì’.”

China and India were the earliest countries to cultivate sugarcane and important producers of sugarcane sugar. There are records of sugarcane cultivation in China as early as the 4th century BC. The “Zhaohun” section of the “Chuci” written during the Warring States period mentions: “Eating turtles and hares, tasting the sugarcane juice.” Here, “zhè” (柘) refers to sugarcane, and “zhè jiāng” (柘浆) means sugarcane juice. This record indicates that as early as the Warring States period, China had primitive processing methods for sugarcane and used its concentrated juice as a sweetener. However, people at that time did not yet know how to process it into sugar. From this, it can be inferred that China has a history of using sugarcane for more than 2,000 years.

During the Western Jin Dynasty, there was significant progress in sugarcane processing techniques. “Sanguo Zhi” written by Chen Shou records: “Sun Liang sent a yellow-liveried attendant with a silver basin and cover to secretly take sugarcane juice from Jiaozhou.” The “sugarcane juice” mentioned here is a liquid sugar produced by concentrating sugarcane juice to a high concentration.

During the Eastern Han Dynasty, the technology for making sugarcane sugar further improved, and the produced sugar began to have small crystals, resembling the prototype of later refined sugar. In the 6th century, Tao Hongjing wrote in his book “Mingyi Bie Lu”: “The best sugarcane comes from Jiangdong, Lu Ling also has good ones. There is a kind in Guangzhou that grows for several years, large as bamboo, over a zhang in length. Its juice is made into rock sugar, very beneficial to people.” This indicates the expansion of sugarcane cultivation areas and the gradual improvement of cultivation techniques.

It is worth mentioning that since the Tang Dynasty, sugarcane sugar entered a stage of manual labor-intensive production. From the appearance of sugarcane sugar during the Warring States period to the Tang and Song dynasties, the industry had developed into workshop-style sugar production. Moreover, new sugar production techniques and processes emerged. For example, the “drip method” appeared around the first year of the Shangyuan era (674 AD). The drip method involved pouring sugarcane juice into a funnel-shaped pottery vessel and using yellow clay slurry to absorb and decolorize it to obtain white sugar. Not only did the Tang Dynasty have some indigenous techniques for producing white sugar, but the Tang government also attached great importance to learning sugar production techniques. “New Book of Tang” records the event of Emperor Taizong dispatching people to India in the 6th century to learn sugar refining techniques: “In the 21st year of the Zhenguan period, he sent envoys to Dawan (India) and presented Boluo trees. The tree is similar to white poplar. Taizong sent envoys to learn the method of sugar refining. After that, sugarcane in Yangzhou was processed in such a way that it tasted even better than the sugar from the Western Regions.”

The ancient sources of sugar mainly comprised yitang made from grains and sugarcane sugar. Among these, yitang was the main source. Apart from these two sources, there were also honey sugar and sugar from sugar beets. These sugar production methods were the crystallization of the wisdom of the ancient Chinese people and represent a historical treasure of the Chinese nation.


where is sugar made in China?

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is China’s largest province for sugar production, supply, and sales. It has over 15 million mu (around 10 million hectares) of sugarcane plantations and nearly 20 million people involved in sugarcane-related agriculture. The region’s sugar production accounts for over 60% of the national total. Currently, the sugar industry in Guangxi has reached an output value of hundreds of billions of yuan, becoming one of the most influential industries in China. However, the lack of advanced processing methods has hindered the development of Guangxi’s sugar industry.

China’s major sugar-producing regions include Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong, Hainan, Fujian, Heilongjiang, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and other provinces and autonomous regions. Sugarcane dominates in the southern regions, while sugar beets are more common in the northern regions, with Guangxi and Heilongjiang being the largest producers. The five major sugar-producing regions of Guangxi, Yunnan, Guangdong, Hainan, and Xinjiang account for 96% of the national sugar production, with Guangxi and Yunnan contributing 58% and 19%, respectively.

The earliest documented records about sugarcane date back to the Song Dynasty. During the Southern Dang campaign, people used sugarcane to alleviate the effects of poisonous gas caused by arrows. The development of sugarcane cultivation and sugar production in Guangxi can be traced back to the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, where small-scale sugar production occurred sporadically in some areas.

As for sugar beets, they were introduced to Guangxi by immigrants from Fujian and other provinces during the Qing Dynasty. They observed that the flat and fertile land along the rivers was suitable for sugar beet cultivation, which led to the establishment of sugar mills and the beginning of the sugar industry in the region.

In the late Qing and early Republic periods, many counties in Wuzhou and Guilin already had sugar cane plantations and mills. The development of the sugar industry was recognized as vital for the economic well-being of Guangxi, particularly as an opportunity to offset deficits in the region’s economy.

During the Republican era, the sugarcane industry witnessed a turning point in Guangxi. The establishment of sugar factories, such as the Guixian Luobowan Sugar Factory in 1934, confirmed the advantages of developing sugar production in Guangxi. Sugarcane had become an essential economic crop in the region, cultivated both in the south and north of Guangxi, providing a significant source of income for farmers’ households. Handicraft sugar mills also operated on a certain scale, and sugar products became important export commodities.

Despite some prosperity during this period, the sugar industry faced challenges due to social unrest, backward farming techniques, and outdated production methods. As a result, further development and improvements in the sugar industry were not realized at that time.

sugar history in China

In prehistoric times, humans already knew how to obtain sweet-tasting food from fresh fruits, honey, and plants. This later developed into the extraction of syrup from grains and further evolved into sugar production from sugarcane and sugar beets. The history of sugar production can be roughly divided into three stages: early sugar production, manual sugar production, and mechanized sugar production. China was one of the earliest countries in the world to produce sugar during the early stages.

The earliest form of sugar produced was malt sugar or syrup made from grains. China’s Western Zhou period’s Book of Songs (Shi Jing) contains a verse that describes the land of Zhou as abundant, with bitter vegetables and wild lettuce as sweet as malt sugar. This indicates that malt sugar had already been made during the Western Zhou period and is considered the earliest form of sugar produced in the world. Malt sugar is a type of sugar made from rice (starch) or malt through saccharification and boiling. It is a sticky, syrup-like substance commonly known as maltose.

From the Warring States period (around the 4th century BCE), there are records of initial processing of sugarcane. The poet Qu Yuan wrote about the extraction of juice from sugarcane in his work “Li Sao.” The art of sugarcane processing progressed in the following centuries, and by the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty (1st century CE), it had reached a level of primitive refinement.

During the Tang and Song dynasties, handcraft sugar production flourished. There are records of the consumption and production of sugar from sugarcane and sugar beets in the historical texts of this period. The Tang Dynasty even learned sugar refining techniques from India in 647 CE. The appearance of white sugar during this time marked a new milestone in sugar processing technology.

By the Song and Yuan dynasties, handcraft sugar production had become well-established. Various techniques and processes were developed, leading to the production of new varieties of sugar, such as white sugar and rock sugar. The sugar industry expanded to various regions in China, including present-day Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Sichuan, and other areas.

During the same period, Chinese immigrants brought sugar production techniques to Taiwan, where favorable climate conditions allowed for the cultivation of sugarcane. As a result, Taiwan became one of China’s major sugar production bases.

The knowledge of sugar production spread beyond China’s borders during this time. It was introduced to Japan in the 8th century and to Java around the 13th century, where it marked the origin of the sugar industry. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Chinese emigrants also brought sugar production techniques to places like the Philippines and Hawaii.

During this long period of sugar production practice, various sugar production methods were developed and refined. In the 12th century, Wang Zhuo wrote the first Chinese book dedicated to sugar production, “Tang Shuang Pu,” which covered the history of sugar production, sugarcane cultivation, sugar-making equipment, processing methods, properties of sugar syrup, uses, and the economic significance of the sugar industry.

Overall, the history of sugar production in China has seen significant development over the centuries, with advancements in techniques and the creation of various sugar products, contributing to its widespread use both domestically and internationally.

when sugar was discovered in China?

The emergence and development of sugar is a complex issue involving dietary culture, regional differences, cultural exchanges, and more. Sugar generally includes malt sugar and cane sugar. Malt sugar, derived from malt, appeared early and had a wide range of uses. Cane sugar gradually entered the market and competed with malt sugar, but this process took a long time. Another major source of sugar is sugar beets, which were not introduced to China until the late Qing Dynasty from Europe. Compared to malt sugar, cane sugar production and processing are more complex and allow for more specialization, reflecting certain characteristics of capitalist employment. Therefore, the development of the cane sugar industry has been an important topic of research for many scholars. The ancient development of cane sugar production can be divided into three periods: raw sugar, sand sugar, and powdered sugar.

Raw Sugar Period:

This period roughly spans from the Zhou Dynasty to the early Tang Dynasty. Initially, the primary sources of sweetness were natural honey and confections made from rice and wheat, such as malt sugar and confectionery. According to the Book of Songs (Shi Jing) from the Chu State during the Zhou Dynasty, wild sugarcane was already present in China, making it one of the earliest countries to cultivate sugarcane. During the Warring States period, sugarcane was cultivated and its juice extracted for consumption, becoming a beverage served at noble banquets. Additionally, sugarcane juice was boiled or evaporated to produce sugar syrup, also known as sugar confections. Further processing of sugar confections through cooling and solidification produced sugar blocks, referred to as “rock sugar” in ancient times.

Sand Sugar Period:

The sand sugar period occurred roughly from the Tang Dynasty to the early Southern Song Dynasty. According to the research by Mr. Ji Xianlin, during the early years of the Tang Dynasty, the method of producing sand sugar was introduced from India. Sand sugar differs from previous forms of sugar in essence. Its production involves adding “ash” (usually plant ash or lime) to aid crystallization and improve sugar purity by neutralizing and precipitating impurities in sugarcane juice. The addition of ash reduces viscosity, improving the purity of cane sugar and resulting in genuine crystallized sugar. The advent of sand sugar can be considered a significant milestone in China’s history of sugar production. Crystallized sugar, compared to previous forms, is less prone to spoilage, easier to store, and more convenient for transportation, directly promoting the prosperity of the Chinese sugar industry. After the Tang Dynasty, sugarcane cultivation gradually concentrated in the southern regions, and production scale expanded significantly. However, sugar remained a luxury item during this period, more commonly used in the sugarcane-growing regions, while for those in the non-sugarcane-growing regions of northern China, sweetness was a luxury and sugar’s medicinal functions outweighed its culinary use.

Powdered Sugar Period:

The powdered sugar period occurred roughly from the Southern Song Dynasty to the Jiajing reign of the Ming Dynasty. During this period, powdered sugar appeared in the Sichuan region, but its application and production were not widespread until the publication of the book “Tang Shuang Pu” during the Southern Song Dynasty, which disseminated the method for making powdered sugar. To produce powdered sugar, sugar water required a secondary boiling process to remove as much water as possible. Bamboo sticks were then inserted into the sugar water, allowing the sugar to naturally crystallize and form powdered sugar. If the sugar water contained excessive moisture, the formation of powdered sugar would fail. Compared to sand sugar, powdered sugar has less moisture, higher purity, and is lighter in weight, facilitating longer storage periods.

With the emergence of powdered sugar, the development of the cane sugar industry progressed towards specialization and standardization, displaying certain characteristics of budding capitalism. Previously, sugar had been a luxury item for many ordinary people, but at this time, sugar became an industrialized economic product, leading to increased consumption. Chinese people also became more creative with sugar, using it to make various pastries and snacks, such as plum sugar, sugar leaves, decorative sugar pieces, sugar cakes, honeyed rice cakes, and sugar porridge.

From the Ming Dynasty onwards, the Chinese invented the technique of using yellow clay water to bleach and separate molasses, resulting in the production of refined white sugar. This marked the transition of China’s sugar industry towards the modern era.

who discovered sugar in China?

During the Tang Dynasty, sugar frost (冰糖) was abundantly produced, and the most famous production was in Suining, attributed to a monk named Monk Zou (邹和尚) according to legend.

In the dry spring weather, many people experience discomfort and coughing due to dry throats. At this time, the elderly like to suck on two pieces of rock sugar to moisten their mouths and relieve thirst. Little did people know that this rock sugar was said to have been invented by our Zou ancestors, and the monk Zou was credited for it.

Monk Zou was a monk during the Tang Dynasty, and the exact years of his birth and death are unknown. He enjoyed traveling and visited various places throughout the country. Around 766-779 AD, Monk Zou arrived at Sanfeng Mountain (now Sanfengshan), which is thirty miles north of Suining city. He was captivated by the beautiful scenery and vast sugarcane fields, so he decided to live in a thatched hut on the mountain.

Drawing upon the experience of sugar production from other regions, Monk Zou meticulously studied and conducted numerous experiments. He then invented the technique of making sugar frost (冰糖) using a cellar, creating a complete set of methods involving steaming, boiling, filling the containers, and extracting the frost. The sugar frost produced by Monk Zou was of excellent color, aroma, and taste. This innovation greatly promoted the development of the sugar industry in Suining and stimulated sugarcane cultivation. Consequently, Suining became renowned for producing the best frost (冰糖) in the country during that time.

According to the third volume of “General History of China,” the Tang Dynasty was famous for its sugar frost production, and Suining was the most well-known producer, attributed to Monk Zou.

In ancient times, rock sugar was known as sugar frost (糖霜) and was a commonly used ingredient known for its phlegm-clearing and fire-reducing properties, suitable for both young and old. According to historical records, its origins can be traced back to Suining, where Monk Zou lived during the Tang Dynasty. This information is documented in various sources, such as “Tang Hometown Chronicles,” “Suining City Chronicles,” “General History of China,” and “Sugar Frost Compendium.” Among them, “Sugar Frost Compendium,” written by Wang Zhuo, a Suining native from the Song Dynasty, provides particularly detailed information.

After Monk Zou invented the sugar-making technique, Suining became renowned as the “Capital of Tang-Song Frost.” It is said that Monk Zou was well-educated and enjoyed traveling, and his footprints covered the entire country. One day, riding on a small white donkey, he arrived at Sanfeng Mountain, thirty miles north of Suining city. It was the season of sugarcane planting, and from the mountaintop, he could see the broad surface of the Fu River on one side and vast green sugarcane fields on the other, creating an impressive sight. Being well-traveled, Monk Zou was reluctant to leave and decided to stay at Sanfeng Mountain for spiritual practice.

Historical records show that the history of sugarcane cultivation in China dates back more than 2400 years. Suining, with its sandy loam soil along the banks of the Fu River, was particularly suitable for growing sugarcane. During the Tang Dynasty, Suining was already extensively cultivating sugarcane and producing sugarcane sugar. However, the processing techniques were limited to traditional methods, and the technology was relatively backward, relying mainly on sun-drying to extract crystallized sugar (石蜜).

After settling at Sanfeng Mountain, Monk Zou, who had traveled across the country, devoted himself to studying sugar-making techniques. Drawing upon experiences from other regions, he conducted diligent research and repeated experiments, eventually creating the technique of making sugar frost (冰糖) through the step-by-step process of steaming, boiling, simmering, filling containers, and extracting frost. The sugar frost produced was of excellent color, aroma, and taste, and it resembled ice cubes, leading later generations to commonly refer to it as “冰糖” or rock sugar in English.

Monk Zou

Sugar and Silk Road

The history of sugar consumption in China is long and diverse, encompassing various types such as honey, maltose, cane sugar, and fructose, which are widely used in cooking, as condiments, in confectionery, medicine, and festive rituals. Cane sugar, as a product that combines Eastern and Western influences, has a close relationship with both the overland Silk Road and the maritime Silk Road. Reflecting on the development of cane sugar throughout history sheds light on the cultural exchanges and evolution of customs between China and the outside world.

Sugarcane is originally from tropical regions and was spread and cultivated in India and Southeast Asia before the Han dynasty in China. As early as the Pre-Qin period, sugarcane was grown in southern China, and people commonly consumed it by squeezing the juice (“zhejiang”) directly or eating it as fresh fruit. Later, they attempted crude processing of sugarcane juice by evaporating some of the water through sun-drying and boiling, producing a concentrated form known as “cane xiang.”

In the historical text “Records of the Three Kingdoms,” there is a story where Sun Liang of the Wu Kingdom found rat droppings in the cane xiang he received from Jiaozhou. Upon further investigation, he discovered that only the surface was wet, while the interior was dry, indicating that the rat droppings were recently added. This shows that the “cane xiang” at that time was a thick sugar syrup. If further condensed, this viscous cane xiang could be solidified into reddish-brown sugar blocks, which were named “shi mi” (stone honey) due to their appearance resembling stones and their sweet taste similar to honey. However, the traditional sun-drying and boiling method could only remove a limited amount of water, resulting in sugar blocks with a high water content that easily dissolved, appearing “as strong as stone” but actually “melting in the mouth.”

Before the Tang Dynasty, in the northern regions where sugarcane was not grown, people who wanted to taste “shi mi” had to rely on foreign envoys and traders from the Western Regions (Central Asia) who brought “Xiji shimi” produced in the Western Regions. This “Xiji shimi” underwent advanced dehydration processes, resulting in dry cake-like blocks that were easy to carry, store, and of superior quality compared to the coarse-sugar “cane xiang” from the south.

According to historical records, Emperor Cao Pi of the Wei Kingdom once presented five cakes of “Western country stone honey” to Emperor Sun Quan of the Wu Kingdom, boasting that even the fresh fruits like longan and lychee from the south could not compare to the taste of this Western country stone honey. In comparison to the “firm and dry” cane xiang from the south, the cake-like Western Region stone honey was even more reminiscent of “stones,” although it did not always maintain its solid form. During transportation along the Silk Road, this stone honey sometimes broke into granules resembling sand, earning it the name “sand sugar.” However, this coarse sugar powder is different from the later crystal-shaped sand sugar.

In the Zhenguan period of the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Taizong, impressed by the dry and easy-to-store qualities of the Western Region sugar, sent a study mission to India’s Magadha Kingdom in the year 647 to learn sugar-making techniques. Upon their return, Taizong ordered the cultivation of sugarcane in Yangzhou and, after 12 years of experimentation, successfully produced high-quality sugar blocks that were superior to the Western Region stone honey, characterized by a pale yellow color.

In the first year of the Longshuo reign (661 AD) of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty, Wang Xuanze was sent to India to invite ten sugar-making experts. Using the “bamboo mashing method,” they produced a light-colored refined sugar known as “shalian,” which is Sanskrit for “sarkarā,” the Indian term for sugar. This marked the introduction of Indian sugar-making techniques to China, leading to imaginative improvements and advancements in sugar-making technology in China and laying the foundation for China’s significant role in the global sugar culture.

During the Northern Song period, craftsmen in Sichuan used the “soaking method” to produce an exceptionally delicate and pure white crystal sugar. Su Shi (Su Dongpo) once wrote in his poetry, “Ice plates present amber, but they are not as beautiful as sugar frost,” while Huang Tingjian praised sugar frost as “superior to Cuihao’s crystal salt.” They playfully remarked that sugar frost’s taste could reach the tip of one’s nose from the tip of one’s tongue, extolling the deliciousness of sugar frost.

In the Southern Song Shaoxing period, with the expansion of sugarcane cultivation and the dissemination of sugar-making techniques, sugar frost not only met the local demand in the southern regions but also had surpluses. Coinciding with the rapid development of maritime technology and maritime trade during the Song and Yuan dynasties, sugar frost, with its low water content, high purity, and lightweight texture, was well-suited for long-distance transportation. Taking advantage of these factors, sugar frost produced in the south was transported northward and sold to provinces there. It was also exported overseas to countries like Champa (Vietnam), Cambodia, Siam (Thailand), and even as far as Persia and Rome. This led to the emergence of “Chinese sugar” on the world stage.

During the same period, the manufacturing technology of Chinese sand sugar continued to improve. According to historical records, during the Northern Song period, the “Great Food” (Arab region) presented a type of “white sand sugar” to the Song court. At that time, the whiter the sugar, the fewer impurities it contained, indicating the refinement of its production process. This suggests that the sugar refining technology in the Arab region was more advanced during this period. With the rise of the Yuan Dynasty, cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries reached new heights, and some Arab sugar-making experts came to China and taught their “ash-boiling sugar refining method” to sugar craftsmen in Fuzhou, further improving the quality of Chinese white sugar. Marco Polo mentioned in his travel accounts that the people of Fuzhou were capable of producing “extremely white sugar” in vast quantities. This large-scale and efficient production of white sugar helped enhance China’s international competitiveness in the sugar market and inspired further technological innovation.

By the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Chinese continued to refine their sugar-making techniques. They invented the “yellow clay water dripping decolorization method” and produced a pure white, crystalline refined cane sugar. Among them, the finest and whitest sugar was called “Western sugar,” reminiscent of a scene from “Dream of the Red Chamber” in which Baochai gave Daiyu “white powder plum blossom snowflake Western sugar.” This “Western sugar” is not imported sugar from Western countries, as by this time, China had already taken a leading position in the world’s sugar production through manual decolorization technology, playing a major role in exporting rather than importing on the international market. The term “Western” here indicated that this white sugar met export standards and was the highest quality. During this period, China’s “Western sugar” was exported to more destinations, covering Southeast Asian countries such as Champa and Siam, as well as Japan, the Persian Gulf, and several European countries. In these regions, China’s high-quality sugar was well received.

It is worth noting that the Chinese manufacturing and decolorization techniques for white sugar were introduced to Bengal, India, during the Ming Dynasty. As a result, several Indian languages, including Hindi and Bengali, refer to white sugar as “cīnī,” meaning “Chinese.” This term “cīnī” echoes the “Xiji shimi” and “sarkarā” of the Tang period, testifying to the connections forged between China and other countries over the centuries due to sugarcane and the enduring goodwill and friendship between them, as well as China’s active role in promoting cultural exchanges between East and West. The open-mindedness and continuous pursuit of excellence demonstrated by ancient Chinese in their exploration and refinement of sugar-making processes can still serve as a guiding light for cultural preservation and heritage as the ancient Silk Road experiences a revival in the modern era.

what does sugar symbolize in Chinese culture?

Chinese people categorize their basic taste perceptions into five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy (or pungent), and salty. When these five flavors intersect with Chinese culture, they become more than just sensory pleasures; they develop into a unique culinary culture. Eating sweet food is infused with various meanings.

Firstly, it symbolizes prosperity and growth. Take sugarcane, the source of sweetness, for example. Its tall and segmented structure is often associated with the idea of sweetness leading to progress. The “Double Ninth Cake” (Chongyang Cake), which represents the Chongyang Festival, is filled with layers of sugar, symbolizing the wish for a sweeter and ever-improving life.

Secondly, sweetness is linked to happiness and blissful beginnings. During weddings, couples eat sweet soup balls (tangyuan) together before entering the bridal chamber. Sugar is also used as a betrothal gift. These practices vividly convey various blessings between people.

Thirdly, sweetness signifies auspiciousness and safety. In ancient China, “fa gao,” a steamed sponge cake, symbolized prosperity, and during the New Year, the higher the “fa gao” rises, the better luck is predicted for the upcoming year.

Meaning of Sweetness:

Symbolizes Prosperity and Growth

Sugar’s origin lies in sugarcane, and the association between the two is natural. As sugarcane tastes sweet and is tall and segmented, people naturally attribute a sense of sweetness and progress to it. In Yong’an County, Fujian, people have used sugarcane as a symbol of “biting into spring” during the Daoguang reign. This practice demonstrates people’s enjoyment of consuming sugarcane as a pleasurable experience and expresses their yearning for a prosperous and sweet life.

Through literary renditions of sugarcane by literati of various dynasties, especially the anecdote of Gu Kaizhi enjoying sugarcane and gradually entering a state of delight, sugarcane gained special literary connotations. During the Qing Dynasty, people used sugarcane to express their longing and anticipation for a sweet life. Thus, the consumption of sugarcane during the Lunar New Year was enriched with cultural significance.

Furthermore, the Chongyang Cake, which represents the Double Ninth Festival, also carries the meaning of increasing sweetness and prosperity. Consuming Chongyang Cake during the festival symbolizes people’s desire for a sweeter and ever-improving life. For instance, in Beijing, Chongyang Flower Cake was made with sugar on the surface and filled with various dried fruits, with different layers representing its beauty. This cake with sugar added adds a festive touch, and people believe that the sugar-filled Chongyang Cake represents beauty, implying that people’s lives will become sweeter and rise to greater heights like the layers of the cake.

Symbolizes Happiness and Blissful Beginnings

Sugar is widely used in wedding celebrations, representing the start of a sweet and happy life. Various applications of sugar in weddings vividly convey blessings between people. During the Qing Dynasty, it was a tradition for the couple to eat a bowl of sweet tangyuan (sweet soup balls) together before entering the bridal chamber, symbolizing the hope for a harmonious and sweet life: “On this evening, a banquet is prepared in the room, and the couple toast to each other. After drinking, two bowls of tangyuan are served, each containing six pieces. First, the couple each takes a bowl and eats two pieces, then they exchange the bowls and eat two more pieces, leaving two pieces in each bowl. The man then covers the bride’s bowl with his own and places it under the bed, and then they go to sleep.”

In some sugar-producing regions during the Qing Dynasty, sugar was commonly used as a betrothal gift before the wedding: “On a certain day, the groom brings gifts, including half of the silver yuan, as well as pork shoulders, chickens, ducks, two types of flour, sugar, dates, etc., with ten varieties of items. Along with the wedding candles, they are sent to the bride’s family.” This indicates that sugar had become an indispensable part of wedding celebrations, and this traditional custom is still in use today, representing blessings for the newlyweds’ happiness.

Symbolizes Auspiciousness and Safety

In ancient China, “fa gao” was associated with wealth and good fortune. Hu Pu’an recorded in his work: “Fa gao is commonly used for festivals, worshiping gods, and housewarming, made with wheat flour mixed with sugar, steamed in a round shape, and stacked in layers.” The quality of fa gao steamed during the Lunar New Year determined the good or bad luck for the palace in the upcoming year. The Qing Dynasty recorded in detail that during the Yuan Dan period, pine cakes used for imperial sacrifices were made of wheat flour and sugar. The larger and higher the pine cake made by a person, the better luck they would have for the year.

China’s ancient sweet food culture is highly inheritable, and therefore, the meaning of sweet food goes beyond mere sensory pleasure and enjoyment; it carries a deeper cultural connotation. By tasting sweet food, people hope to experience the enjoyment of sweetness and to savor a sweet life, embodying the concept of sweet happiness and well-being. This harmonious note of culinary sweetness and spiritual significance in Chinese sweet food culture provides an excellent interpretation of the aesthetic and cultural aspects. As sugar is the main and indispensable seasoning for sweet food, it plays a crucial role and demonstrates its unique status in the development of sweet food culture in China.

what are sugar used for in China?

Processed food with a sweet taste is called sweet food. It can be broadly categorized into several types: sweet drinks, desserts, candies, preserved fruits, preserves, sweet dishes, and more. Sugar plays a crucial role as a seasoning in the creation and development of sweet food.

Sweet Drinks Production

In ancient times, sweet drinks mainly referred to honey water, sugarcane juice, and sugar water. Ancient Chinese people learned to mix water with honey to make honey syrup, which was consumed as a daily health beverage. During the Southern Song Dynasty, records of selling ginger honey water in the Hangzhou market can be found. Zhang Quan’s “Medicinal Properties” also states, “Drinking honey syrup treats sudden heartaches and red and white dysentery. Drinking ginger honey water regularly makes the face rosy.” This indicates that honey water had become a daily favorite and a healthful sweet drink.

In the late Warring States period around the 4th century BCE, “zhejiang” (柘浆) was first recorded in the “Summoning Souls” poem in the Chu Ci (楚辞) poetry collection: “Mian bie pao gao, you zhejiang xie.” Zhu Xi’s annotations explain that “zhe” was an alternative name for sugarcane. “Zhe” refers to sweet sugarcane, indicating that it was squeezed to produce cane juice for drinking. As infants, elderly, and sick people could not chew sugarcane, its juice was extracted for consumption, hence the name “zhejiang.” During the Han Dynasty around the 2nd century BCE, sugarcane juice was already used as a beverage for relieving drunkenness. In “Han Shu · Li Yue Zhi” (“Records of the Rites and Music of the Han Dynasty”), the “Jiao Si Ge” song mentions: “Bai wei zhi jiu bu lan sheng, tai zun zhejiang xi zhao cheng.” Yan Shigu’s commentary explains that “cheng” means being drunk on wine. “Xi” means to resolve. It means that sugarcane juice can resolve drunkenness. The effects of drinking sugarcane juice for sobering up and chewing sugarcane for sobering up are the same. Later, in the 3rd century CE, people in the Jiangnan region used sugarcane juice as a thirst-quenching beverage. For instance, Zhang Zai from the Jin Dynasty wrote: “Jiangnan dou zhe, niang ye fengpei, ke zhe suo si.” In some sugarcane-producing areas, people added sugarcane juice to tea, as mentioned in Du Fu’s poem “Advancing in a Boat”: “Ming yin zhejiang xie suo suoyou.” “Ming yin zhejiang” refers to sweet tea with sugarcane juice added, which can also be called a soft drink. The consumption of sugarcane juice as a sweet drink has a long history. Yuan Dynasty poet Gu Aying used a jade bowl to hold sugarcane juice and composed poetry while drinking: “Zhejiang yu wan bing ling ling.” Du Fu also mentioned: “Ming yin zhejiang xie suo suoyou.”

By using sugar with plain water, a simple sugar water drink is created. In the hot summer, sugar water is an excellent thirst quencher. Thus, during the “Summer Solstice” festival, people cook sugar water as a reminder to drink more “sugar water” in summer, which is considered a “cooling and healthful method” for avoiding heat.

Since the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, “ginger wine” has been widely used as a sweet drink in Guangdong. Ginger wine has the effect of dispelling wind, and sugar, especially red sugar used in cooking ginger wine, has the functions of eliminating stasis, promoting blood circulation, and supplementing the blood loss of postpartum women. Giving ginger wine to women after childbirth became a fashionable folk custom in Guangdong during the Qing Dynasty. In Guangdong, sugar-made ginger wine was used as a health supplement for postpartum women.

Making Desserts and Candies

The earliest sweet desserts were generally made from honey. During the Warring States to the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, various pastries such as “Juzi” (a type of cake), “Can,” “Xihuan Bing,” “Jie Bing,” “Sui Bing,” “Jian Tang,” and others were mostly made by mixing honey with glutinous rice flour or wheat flour.

Later, with the emergence of malt sugar and cane sugar, the variety of sweet desserts and candies became more abundant. For example, in the Song Dynasty’s “Menglianglu,” there were records of numerous sugar products sold at the night markets in Hangzhou during the Southern Song period, such as “Rutang,” “Shiban Tang,” “Shise Huahua Tang,” “Shiban Gaozi Tang,” “Qiuqian Chou Tang,” “Chuitang,” “Gu’er Xiang,” and others. Hangzhou’s market offered a wide range of sweet products during the Southern Song period, as mentioned in Zhou Mi’s “Wulin Jiu Shi.” Some popular candies included “Yuanxi… jie shi suo shang,” such as “Rutang Yuanzi,” “Hupo Tang,” “Qing Tang,” “Mijian,” “Miguo,” “Tang Gualu,” “Shiban Tang,” and more. Besides these, there were also some well-liked candies, such as “Rutang Shier,” “Xiangjiao’er,” and the children’s favorite “Caitang.” When making sweets and candies, honey, malt sugar, and cane sugar were not just used separately; they were often combined to create even more delicious desserts and candies. Sweets and candies have always held a significant position in the realm of sweet foods, and the key role of sugar in their production has been detailed in Chapter Four and will not be repeated here.


Making Preserves with Honey

Honey preservation is a method of using honey to soak fruits to create a new type of food with distinct flavors from fresh fruits. This method of preserving fruits with honey has evolved into a method of food processing.

In ancient times, many products were made using honey. During the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Xie Feng recorded in the “Shi Jing” that people used honey to preserve melons and fruits for long-term storage. In the Northern Wei Dynasty, Jia Sixie recorded in the “Qi Min Yao Shu” that people extensively used honey for food preservation. Some food items required a substantial amount of honey in their preparation. For example, we can see a glimpse of this in the making of “mijiang” (honey ginger). The recipe involves taking “one jin of fresh ginger, washing it, and peeling it,” then cutting it “into thin and fine strips like lacquer chopsticks.” “Using two sheng of water, boil it and skim the foam, then add two sheng of honey, boil it again, and skim the foam. Pour it into a bowl, mix the juices, reduce them by half, and serve with chopsticks. If fresh ginger is unavailable, dried ginger can be used, and the method is the same, except that the cutting must be as fine as possible.”

Zhou Mi also recorded the honey-made products sold in Hangzhou City during that time in “Wulin Jiu Shi”: “Mijian, Miguo, Feng Tang Bing, Mizao’er, Hu Po Mi, Guo Mi, Mi Ma Su, Mi Jiang Chi, Mi Dan Dan, Bo He Mi, various kinds of Tang Mi Jian, Feng Tang Gao, Mi Gao,” and others.

Cooking Seasonings

The eating habits of the Chinese people, particularly in the Jiangnan, Huazhong, and Huanan regions, have a long history of favoring sweetness. The widespread use of sugar in the diet has been established since ancient times, and sugar and cane have brought people more desires for pleasurable tastes. Thus, from sugar to sweetness, from sweetness to delight, and from delight to generating beautiful associations, it is no wonder that ancient Chinese people enjoyed sweet foods and favored the use of sugar in cooking.

In 225 AD, Emperor Wen of Wei once quoted the words of the Shu Prefect Meng Da: “The taste of Shu’s cured meat, chicken, and duck is all mild, so the Shu people like to eat candied honey.” This shows that the people of the Three Kingdoms period enjoyed sweet foods, and sugar had already become a necessary seasoning. There are also records of using sugarcane juice as a seasoning for food preparation, such as in Wang Wei’s poem describing his visit to the garden of He Sui: “Zhejiang Guo Mi Fan,” which means sugarcane juice with rice. This indicates that sugarcane juice was already used in cooking to make delicious sweet foods.

The traditional Chinese festival dish, “Yuanxiao” (sweet rice dumplings), particularly in the Jiangnan area, is exquisite. People made sweet rice dumplings with sugar fillings, resembling sugar balls. As noted by Hu Pu’an, it was a custom in Wujin, Jiangsu, during the Southern Song period: “On the fifteenth day, known as Shangyuan Festival, there were sounds of drums and gongs all over the city, with many people selling sugar balls.” Another type of sweet rice dumpling included both sweet and savory flavors. The method involved soaking glutinous rice in water for a day and night, grinding it with water, and filtering it through cloth, then adding ashes under the cloth to remove impurities. The fine flour was then used to make a smooth soup dumpling, with fillings such as pine nuts, walnuts, pork fat, and sugar, or tender meat, which was beaten and mixed with chopped scallions and autumn oil. These examples illustrate that whether sweet or sweet and savory soup dumplings, sugar played an essential role in their preparation as a necessary flavoring.

From the late Ming to early Qing period, there was a popular tradition in Guangdong of consuming a special sweet food called “Chasu” (also known as “Cha Su”). Qu Dajun described this famous local festival dessert in “Guangdong Xinyu”: “In Guangzhou customs, in the late autumn, people cook glutinous grains in hot oil, known as ‘Pao Gu,’ and make ‘Jian Dui’ with sweet fillings. ‘Jian Dui’ is made from glutinous rice flour, formed into small round shapes, and fried in oil. It is offered to ancestors and served to family and friends. They also arrange glutinous rice into various flower shapes, cook them in oil, and call them ‘Mi Hua.’ Mixing glutinous rice flour with white sugar, they add lard, and cook it until it turns golden. This is called ‘Sha Yang.’ They mix glutinous rice flour and polished round-grain rice flour together, fry it until it becomes solid like ironstone, and call it ‘Bai Bing.’ During the end of the year, the sound of making ‘Bai Bing’ is as loud as pounding clothes, which is quite pleasant to hear. There are also ‘Huang Bing,’ ‘Ji Chun Bing,’ ‘Su Mi Bing,’ and so on. For the wealthy, more ‘Bing’ indicates higher status. Until the Cold Food Festival and Qingming Festival, they still use ‘Bing’ to entertain guests. On ordinary occasions, when women visit each other, they bring ‘You Zha,’ ‘Gao Huan,’ and ‘Bo Cui.’ ‘You Zha’ and ‘Gao Huan’ are made with flour, while ‘Bo Cui’ is made with glutinous rice flour. All these are called ‘Chasu.'” Henceforth, “Chasu” became a local festive tradition. It can also be seen that honey and white sugar were widely used in making “Chasu,” showcasing their essential role as flavoring agents.

In the late Qing period, there were various methods of using malt sugar in cooking. When frying meat patties, for instance, “malt sugar was used to brush the surface for color.” This enhanced the taste and appearance of the fried meat patties. Malt sugar was even used in daily cooking. In the Qing Dynasty, people from Jiangsu and Zhejiang frequently cooked “malt sugar together with pork slices,” and during weddings in Haiyan County, Zhejiang, sugar rice was served to guests and the newlyweds during the “sugar rice banquet.” It can be inferred that sugar played an important role as a seasoning in the cooking process of the “sugar rice” dish.

In Qing Dynasty literature, there were numerous records of using honey to make desserts, and it was used in considerable quantities. For example, the making of “mijian ou” (honey-glazed lotus root) during the Qing Dynasty exemplifies this point: “In early autumn, select fresh and tender lotus root, partially boil it, remove the skin, and cut it into slices. For every jin of lotus root, use four liang of white plums and a large bowl of boiling water to soak it for an hour, then drain it. Use six liang of honey to simmer the lotus root until most of the water evaporates. In a separate pot, use ten liang of good honey to slowly simmer it until it becomes amber-colored. Let it cool and store it in jars.”

In ancient times, especially during the Ming and Qing dynasties, recipes often featured honey as a key ingredient for creating exquisite delicacies at banquets. We can also find from historical records that honey was used in various dishes. For example, during the Confucius family banquet in the Qing Dynasty, there were many honey-based dishes such as “mizhi houtui” (honey-glazed ham). By the late Qing and early Republican era, honey-cooked products had become widely popular among people.

In conclusion, as a traditional seasoning in Chinese cuisine, sugar has played an indispensable role. Food cooked with added sugar is delicious and pleasurable, satisfying people’s desire for sweetness. The enduring tradition of consuming sweet foods in Chinese culture demonstrates the immeasurable role sugar plays in the realm of Chinese sweet food culture.

Therapeutic Use of Sugar in Chinese Diet

The health benefits of sugarcane and sugar have been recognized early on, and they have been incorporated into medical prescriptions. With the development of the sugar industry in the eastern region of China during the Qing Dynasty, this health-consciousness was combined with dietary practices, introducing the knowledge of sugarcane and sugar’s healing properties to people through seasonal foods. For instance, sugarcane was known for its cooling and eye-benefiting medical effects and was frequently used in ancient remedies for eye ailments. In the Guangxu era, in the Chongming district of Jiangnan, there was a tradition of consuming sugarcane on the day of “Lixia” (the start of summer) for eye health: “On the day of ‘Lixia’ in April, people eat sugarcane, lotus roots, plums, bamboo shoots, and cherries, known for their eye-benefiting properties.”

In ancient medical texts, there are frequent mentions of using sugar as medicine. For example, in the “Qianjin Yaofang,” written in 652 AD, there are several medicinal prescriptions involving sugar: “To treat fish bone obstruction in the throat: consume sugar water. For bone obstruction in the throat that cannot be treated with other methods: take a large lump of sticky sugar, the size of a chicken egg yolk, and swallow it. To treat swallowing gold, silver, or hairpins: take two catties of white sugar and gradually consume it in one meal. The more consumed, the better the effect. To relieve cough and restore voice: use cliff honey and malt sugar. To treat cold damage of the lungs resulting in cough, nasal congestion, and phlegm: use white sugar, boil it with garlic, and add honey.”

In Wang Tao’s “Wai Tai Mi Yao” (Secret Essentials of the Outer Court) in Volume Six, there is a prescription for treating continuous vomiting: “Warm sugarcane juice and take one liter, consume it three times a day.” However, there is a note below that says, “Alternatively, use licorice juice. Zhang Wenzhong also recommended this in Volume Three.” In Volume Eight, there is a treatment for fish bone obstruction in the throat that cannot be removed by various methods: “Take a large lump of malt sugar, the size of a chicken egg yolk, and swallow it. If it doesn’t work, swallow another one; this method is effective. Prepare throat juice, and if there is mouth pain, mash it and consume the juice.”

There are countless references to the therapeutic use of sugar in ancient medical books, and it is evident that honey and white sugar played an irreplaceable role in Chinese traditional diet therapy, being regarded as excellent products for health preservation and well-being.

sugar in Chinese new year

  1. ishing for a sweet and beautiful new year, where life becomes even sweeter than sugar.
  2. In the past, people’s living standards were not high, and sugar was scarce. It was only on special occasions like having guests over, celebrating festivals, weddings, or joyous events that people would use sugar to treat their guests.
  3. Sugar symbolizes auspiciousness. During the Lunar New Year, giving out sugar to guests signifies sharing happiness and auspiciousness with everyone, wishing them a joyous year ahead.
  4. The Spring Festival is not just a festival; it is also a crucial channel for the release of emotions and the fulfillment of psychological needs for the Chinese people. It is the annual carnival and everlasting spiritual pillar of the Chinese nation.

sugar in Chinese wedding

Wedding candy, as the name suggests, is the candy used during joyous occasions, and it has been an integral part of wedding celebrations since ancient times. Chinese people have always regarded passing the imperial examination, the wedding night with flowers and candles, encountering long-awaited rain after a drought, and reuniting with old friends in a distant place as the four major joyful events. Among them, the wedding night with flowers and candles is the most significant, and it is only during this occasion that we use candy to share our happiness with others. Since candy is sweet, it symbolizes the sweetness of the newlyweds, and therefore, the purpose of wedding candy is to inform others of our joyful news of starting a family and to invite them to share in the sweetness of the newlyweds.

Origin of Wedding Candy: In traditional wedding ceremonies, during the bride’s departure to the groom’s home or when the newlyweds enter the bridal chamber, wedding candy is scattered, allowing everyone to share the sweetness and happiness. Traditional wedding candy is divided into four varieties, known as the “four-color wedding candy,” including rock candy, winter melon candy, tangerine candy, and longan candy, symbolizing distinct seasons, sweetness, and a lifetime of togetherness.

Meaning of Wedding Candy:

Decorative Detail: Wedding candy plays a significant role in decorating the wedding scene. For today’s couples, wedding candy not only signifies sweet wishes for their married life but also serves as an important decorative element at the wedding. A well-prepared wedding candy display enhances the overall ambiance, while a lackluster one may leave a negative impression on guests.

Reflecting Personalities: The choice of wedding candy reflects the personalities of the couple. For example, colorful candies may indicate a young couple from the ’90s, while selected brand chocolates might represent quality-conscious individuals from the ’80s. Plain bulk candies, on the other hand, might not leave a lasting impression on guests.

Expressing Gratitude: Wedding candy is not just a pre-banquet snack or a simple part of the return gifts; it also embodies the couple’s gratitude towards their friends and family. Therefore, purchasing wedding candy should not be taken lightly. Understanding the origins and meanings of wedding candy can make the selection process more thoughtful and meaningful.

Offering to Ancestors

During important rituals and ancestral worship ceremonies, sugar is often offered as a symbolic offering to ancestors. It is believed that sugar can sweeten the relationship between the living and the deceased and express gratitude for their guidance and blessings.

how is sugar made in China?

As of my last update in September 2021, sugar production in China primarily involves two main sources: sugarcane and sugar beets. Here is an overview of how sugar is made from these sources in China:

Sugarcane Sugar Production:

Cultivation: Sugarcane is grown in tropical and subtropical regions of China, particularly in provinces like Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, and Hainan.

Harvesting: When the sugarcane plants are mature, they are harvested by cutting the canes close to the ground.

Extraction: The harvested sugarcane is then transported to sugar mills where the juice is extracted through crushing or pressing the cane. The juice contains sugar, water, and other substances.

Clarification: The extracted juice is then clarified to remove impurities and debris.

Evaporation: The clarified juice is concentrated by evaporation to increase the sugar content.

Crystallization: The concentrated juice is further processed to induce crystallization, separating sugar crystals from the liquid portion (molasses).

Centrifugation: The sugar crystals are separated from molasses using centrifugal machines.

Drying: The separated sugar crystals are dried to remove any remaining moisture.

Packaging: The dried sugar crystals are then packaged and ready for distribution and consumption.

Sugar Beet Sugar Production:

Cultivation: Sugar beets are grown in temperate regions of China, including provinces such as Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Jilin.

Harvesting: Once sugar beets reach maturity, they are harvested, and the leaves are removed.

Slicing: The harvested sugar beets are then sliced into thin strips or cossettes.

Extraction: The sliced beets are soaked in hot water to extract the sugar content, resulting in a sweet juice.

Clarification: Similar to sugarcane sugar production, the beet juice undergoes clarification to remove impurities.

Evaporation and Crystallization: The clarified juice is concentrated and crystallized to separate sugar crystals from the liquid (beet molasses).

Centrifugation: The sugar crystals are separated from beet molasses using centrifugal machines.

Drying and Packaging: The separated sugar crystals are dried, and the final product is packaged for distribution and consumption.

It is important to note that the sugar production process in China may have undergone some advancements and changes beyond my knowledge cutoff date. As such, I recommend checking more recent sources for the latest information on sugar production in China.

sugar foods in China

As of my last update in September 2021, China has a diverse culinary culture that includes a wide variety of foods, and sugar is used in various dishes and snacks. Some sugar-based foods commonly found in China include:

Mooncakes: Mooncakes are traditional Chinese pastries typically eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. They come in various flavors, and some varieties contain sweet fillings like lotus seed paste, red bean paste, or even fruit-based fillings.

Sweet Buns and Pastries: Chinese bakeries offer a range of sweet buns and pastries, such as pineapple buns, red bean buns, custard-filled buns, and more. These treats are often enjoyed as breakfast or snacks.

Tangyuan: Tangyuan are glutinous rice balls filled with sweet fillings like black sesame paste, red bean paste, or peanut butter. They are usually served in a sweet syrup and are a popular dessert during the Lantern Festival and Winter Solstice.

Candied Fruits: China has a long tradition of making candied fruits, such as candied hawthorn berries (tanghulu), candied sweet potatoes, and candied kumquats. These sweet treats are often served on skewers and are popular street snacks.

Chinese New Year Sweets: During the Chinese New Year celebrations, various traditional sweets are made, including nian gao (sticky rice cake), which is a sweet and sticky treat enjoyed during the festival.

Sweet Soups and Desserts: There are various sweet soups and desserts in Chinese cuisine, such as red bean soup, green bean soup, almond tofu, and more.

Sweetened Beverages: Many Chinese beverages contain sugar, such as sweetened teas, fruit juices, and flavored milk drinks.

Chinese Sugar people

 Also known as ‘sugar sculpture,’ it is a type of folk handicraft primarily made from sugar. There are generally two methods of production: one uses bamboo sticks as the framework and involves techniques like blowing, pulling, stretching, pinching, pressing, picking, cutting, and kneading to create the sugar figure. The other method involves pouring maltose syrup into molds, cooling it, and then removing it to form the sugar figure. This method is also known as ‘mold-cast sugar figure.’ The former method results in delicate and intricate figures, while the latter produces more solid and robust ones. The main forms of the figures are humans and animals, which can be used as toys or consumed as food. This art form is predominantly popular in the regions of Hejian, Xianxian, and Cangzhou in Hebei Province, China. Its origins can be traced back to folk sacrificial items.”

sugar painting

Sugar Painting, popular in Sichuan, Shanghai, Hubei, Tibet, Zhejiang, Beijing, and Tianjin, is a folk art form made primarily from sugar. It is both sugar and painting, both an artistic display and an edible treat. Commonly known as “sugar figure,” “inverted sugar figure,” “inverted sugar cake,” or “sugar shadow play,” this distinctive folk tradition has a history of over four hundred years.

According to historical records, its origins can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty’s “Sugar Prime Minister.” Churen Chu, in his collection “Jianhu Buji,” mentioned that during the Ming Dynasty, when people worshiped deities, they used to “melt sugar” and create various animal and human-shaped objects as offerings. These molded figures depicted dignified officials and military officers, hence the humorous term “Sugar Prime Minister” was used. Over time, Sichuan’s folk artists incorporated the techniques of shadow puppetry and paper cutting into the process, eliminating the need for molds. Instead, they used small copper spoons to ladle sugar liquid and draw shadow-like patterns directly, gradually evolving into the art of sugar painting as seen today.

The content of folk art sugar paintings is extensive, featuring lifelike and acclaimed forms both domestically and internationally. The skilled artists employ diverse techniques and clever concepts, displaying their artistic mastery freely. From the twelve zodiac animals to peacocks in full display, from dragons playing with pearls to phoenixes spreading their wings, these sugar paintings are truly remarkable and awe-inspiring.

The process of making sugar paintings typically involves using syrup made from pure white sugar or maltose. Though honey can also be used, it is rare due to its high cost. One of the critical aspects is the skill in boiling the sugar. About half a kilogram of pure white sugar is mixed with approximately one and a half liang of water and boiled over high heat for 25 minutes while continuously stirring. When the sugar reaches a thick and syrupy consistency, and the ladled sugar forms continuous threads, it is considered adequately boiled.

Another key element is the skillful use of the spoon during the painting process. Sugar painting differs from conventional art as it lacks paper and instead uses smooth and heat-resistant marble slabs. During painting, the spoon containing the sugar mixture is held at a specific distance above the slab, and the artist uses wrist movements to control the spoon. Experienced sugar artists summarize five essential factors for a successful painting: the figure must be vividly portrayed, the lines must be symmetrical, the speed of execution must be fast, the work must be completed in one go without alteration, and lastly, mastering the right waiting time to “lift” the sugar painting, thus achieving success.

Observing a skilled artist in action, they deftly scoop a spoonful of sugar syrup from the pot using a small round spoon, quickly lift it, and bring it to the marble slab. A thin “thread” of sugar remains as the spoon reaches the center of the slab, then slightly tilting the spoon, the artist allows the thin and dense sugar liquid to flow along the spoon’s edge. The process is rapid and continuous, with movements of scooping, lifting, pausing, dropping, and releasing in one smooth motion. The sugar syrup cascades onto the smooth marble surface, forming intricate patterns of lifelike birds, animals, flowers, and fish, captivating the audience. The majestic dragons and colorful phoenixes, in particular, are truly breathtaking. The sparkling reddish-brown sugar liquid forms undulating and textured patterns, and when viewed from the side, it appears exceptionally smooth.

In summary, Sugar Painting is a captivating and ancient folk art, blending the beauty of painting with the sweetness of sugar, making it both a visual delight and a delicious treat.


“Tanghulu” is a traditional folk food of the Han ethnic group, popular in Beijing and other areas. In Tianjin, it is called “糖堆儿” (Tangduier). Legend has it that during the end of the Sui Dynasty, a sugar hawthorn gourd (a type of candy shaped like a hawthorn fruit) was given as a reward to meritorious officials. The preparation method involves threading small hawthorn fruits, sea holly, or other fruits onto thin bamboo skewers, which are then dipped into molten sugar.

The main ingredients are fresh fruits, such as hawthorn, sea holly, black jujube, grapes, water chestnuts, orange segments, etc. Some versions may use steamed mountain yam segments or boiled mountain yam beans as the base. There are also variations where hawthorn fruits are cut open, pitted, filled with red bean paste or mountain yam paste, and decorated with sunflower seeds or walnut kernels. Another variation is made by dipping alternating orange segments and black jujubes into melted rock sugar.

The end product is not only visually appealing but also delicious to taste, making it a popular winter snack in Beijing. During the Spring Festival, large sugar hawthorn gourds, measuring 4 to 5 feet long, are also sold at temple fairs with small triangular paper flags inserted at the top for decoration.

Chinese sugar melon

“Tanggua” is a traditional Han ethnic folk candy made by boiling maltose. It is popular in Beijing, Tianjin, and the northeastern regions of China. The candy is named “Tanggua” (糖瓜) because it somewhat resembles a melon in shape. Originally, it was used as an offering to the Kitchen God on the 23rd day of the twelfth lunar month (Little New Year). However, it has now become a popular sweet treat during the Chinese New Year festivities. The candies come in various sizes, have a milky-white color, are hollow inside, and are extremely sticky. In the Qing Dynasty, offerings to the Kitchen God already included items like “Tanggua” and “Tangbing” (sugar cakes).

candied fruit

“Mijian” (蜜饯) is a traditional Han ethnic candy-preserved fruit food. It has a long history and is popular throughout various regions. In ancient times, it was called “mijian,” and during the Tang Dynasty, fruits offered as tributes to the imperial court were preserved by soaking them in honey. By the Song Dynasty, the production became more refined and diversified, leading to the development of two main categories: those preserved with honey and those using both honey and cane sugar. The process involves selecting fruits, washing them, soaking them, and then cooking them into a delightful and flavorful treat. Beijing’s “mijian” fruit candies have gradually developed their own distinct characteristics since the Ming Dynasty, with “golden-threaded honey” and apricot candies being the most famous. Assorted fruit candies made from peach, apricot, pear, melon strips, red fruit strips, and hawthorn are also popular during the Beijing Spring Festival and are known as “mixed blends.”

In Fujian, there are unique varieties like “jiayingzi,” “chenpi plum,” and “osmanthus olives.” In Guangzhou, “sugar lotus seeds” and “sugar ginger” are famous choices. Suzhou offers “snow plum” and “sugar roses,” while Chaozhou has “eight-treasure plum” and “sugar radish,” each with its own distinctive flavors.

Chinese maltose

Traditional maltose is made from wheat and glutinous rice. It is fragrant, sweet, and delicious, rich in nutrients, and has detoxifying, nourishing, spleen-strengthening, and lung-soothing effects. It is a food suitable for both the young and old. Maltose can be processed into maltose syrup, which has a wide range of applications in various fields of the food industry, including solid foods, liquid foods, frozen foods, and colloidal foods (if frozen). It is primarily used in processing caramel coloring, candies, fruit juices, winemaking, canned foods, soybean paste, soy sauce, and can also be used in making ice cream, as well as baking products such as cakes and bread.

sweet wine

Maltose, also known as sweet wine, is a traditional Chinese sweet wine made from glutinous rice. It is called “li” in ancient times. The main raw material is glutinous rice, which is why it is also known as “Jiangmi wine.” In northern regions, it is generally referred to as “rice wine” or “sweet wine.” It is made by fermenting steamed glutinous rice with a special type of yeast called “jiujiu” (a type of microbial yeast). The production process is simple, resulting in a delightful and sweet wine with a low alcohol content, making it well-loved by many. In China, the use of high-quality glutinous rice for brewing rice wine has a history of over a thousand years. Rice wine has become a daily beverage in rural households, and modern production often involves industrial processes.

Corn wine, also known as corn liquor or “baogu wine,” is popular in certain regions of Guizhou and is also called “burnt wine.” Corn wine can have varying alcohol content, ranging from 25 to 70 degrees, and has a rich and sweet flavor. In Chinese alcoholic beverage culture, corn wine is primarily concentrated in the southwest and northeast regions. These areas have abundant corn resources, making corn wine a flagship product in these regions.

Huangjiu (Yellow wine) is one of the oldest types of alcohol in the world, with its yeast culture determining its quality. It originated in China and is unique to the country, alongside beer and grape wine, forming the trio of ancient wines in the world. Approximately three thousand years ago, during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, the Chinese invented the complex fermentation method using yeast culture, and large-scale production of Huangjiu began. Huangjiu is produced in various regions and comes in many varieties. Some well-known types include Jiujian Fenggang Wine from Jiujiang, Shaoxing Old Wine, Jimo Old Wine, Fujian Old Wine, Wuxi Huiquan Wine, Jiangyin Black Du Wine, Shaoxing Zhaoyuan Red, Daughter Red, Zhangjiagang Shazhou Youhuang, Wujiang Wugong Old Wine, Suzhou Tongli Red, Shanghai Old Wine, Hebi Yuhe Shuanghuang, Nantong Baipu Huangjiu, Jiangsu Jintan and Danyang Fenggang Wine, Jiahe Dangang Wine from Hunan, Henan Shuanghuang Wine, Henan Liujicang Pie Huangjiu, Hakka Niangjiu from Guangdong, Hubei Old Yellow Wine, Shaanxi Xiecun Huangjiu, and Shaanxi Huangguan Huangjiu. In the southern regions, glutinous rice is used as the main ingredient, while in the northern regions, foxtail millet and broomcorn millet are commonly used. Huangjiu generally has an alcohol content ranging from 14% to 20%, making it a low-alcohol fermented beverage. It is rich in nutrients and contains 21 types of amino acids, including several unknown ones that are essential for the human body but cannot be synthesized by itself. Huangjiu is thus known as the “liquid cake.” Huangjiu is a traditional Chinese Han ethnic beverage and belongs to the category of brewed wines. Among the three major brewed wines (Huangjiu, grape wine, and beer) in the world, it holds an important position. Its unique brewing techniques make it a representative and model in the Eastern brewing world.

sweet tofu brain

Sweet tofu pudding, which mainly originated in the southern regions, serves not only as a staple food but also as a dessert, often referred to as “douhua” in many areas. According to the non-professional observations of the author, sweet tofu pudding can be roughly divided into four main styles: the honey-topped style, the fruit-infused style, the health-conscious style, and the trendy style.

Honey-topped style: Simple and direct, it’s all about sweetness! In its basic form, sugar is sprinkled on top, while more advanced versions include adding candied fruits, honeyed beans, and other sweet treats, which might be a challenge for those watching their weight.

Fruit-infused style: As the name suggests, this style involves mixing tofu pudding with various fruits, allowing one to savor the natural flavors.

Health-conscious style: Since tofu pudding has nourishing and heat-clearing health benefits, people in the southern regions who value health might add ingredients like goji berries, tremella mushrooms, dates, and lotus seeds, boiled together with the tofu pudding. Depending on the health objectives, they might create countless combinations, resulting in various variations.

Trendy style: Often found in dessert shops, the trendy style incorporates elements from different cultures. For instance, products may fuse elements from Hong Kong and Taiwan, such as milk tea and taro balls, with tofu pudding. There are also attempts to combine Western culinary features, like chocolate sauce or strawberry sauce, with tofu pudding. As a result, the trendy style tends to be favored by younger generations.

sweet rice dumplings

Sweet Zongzi is a delicious delicacy made primarily from glutinous rice, with additional ingredients such as sweet tea and honey dates. This Zongzi boasts a perfect combination of color, fragrance, taste, and appearance. Its golden and glossy appearance is visually appealing, while its smooth and tender texture provides a delightful mouthfeel. The Zongzi is soft, sticky, and leaves a lingering fragrance on the palate, delivering a pleasant and sweet aftertaste. It is also a nutritious treat.

Sweet tangyuan

Sweet-filled Tangyuan already have a sweet taste, so there’s no need to add sugar to the soup, reducing calorie intake. If it’s plain Tangyuan without any filling, the soup can be flavored with sweet osmanthus, sweet rice wine, floral teas, or a combination of longan and red dates soup or longan and ginger soup, which can provide nourishment and help dispel coldness. When cooking savory Tangyuan, adding some vegetables can increase dietary fiber.

Sweet moon cake

Red Bean Paste Mooncake:

Red bean paste mooncake is a common type of mooncake in our daily life. The making of red bean paste is quite simple, requiring only cooked red beans and mung beans mashed into a paste, with the addition of brown sugar for sweetness. The texture of red bean paste mooncake is crispy on the outside and soft and sticky on the inside, offering a delightful and sweet flavor.

Egg Yolk Mooncake:

Egg yolk mooncake typically consists of a filling made of lotus seed paste, hence it is also known as “lotus seed paste mooncake with egg yolk.” The outer crust of the egg yolk mooncake is oily and crumbly, with a fragrant and delicious aroma. The filling contains a salted egg yolk, combining the savory taste of the yolk with the smooth and rich lotus seed paste.

Five Nut Mooncake:

One thing that leaves a deep impression about the five nut mooncake is the red and green threads wrapped inside the filling. As a child, I was always curious about what these red and green threads were. As I grew up, I learned that they are made from pickled radish and are also known as “green threads” or “rose threads.” The filling of the five nut mooncake typically includes a mixture of various nuts combined with roasted flour and these red and green threads. Some versions may also include rock sugar granules. This flavor evokes unforgettable memories from my childhood and is a popular choice among elderly individuals.

Dragon’s Beard Candy

 Dragon Beard Candy is a famous confectionery from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Besides being popular within the region, the product is also exported to places like Hong Kong.

Dragon Beard Candy is made primarily from white sugar and undergoes several precise processes, including ingredient preparation, frying, sugar boiling, cooling, pulling, shaping, and packaging. This type of candy is crispy, delicious, and has a delightful sweet fragrance.

Dragon Beard Candy comes in various flavors, such as osmanthus, salt and pepper, mint, chocolate, peanut, bean, and sesame, each with its unique characteristics.

Dragon’s Beard Candy

is Chinese food high in sugar?

Chinese food can vary widely in terms of sugar content depending on the dishes and ingredients used. Traditional Chinese cuisine often emphasizes a balance of flavors, including sweet, salty, sour, and umami, which can result in some dishes having moderate amounts of sugar. On the other hand, modern and Western-influenced Chinese dishes, especially those found in fast-food chains or restaurants catering to international tastes, may contain higher levels of added sugars to cater to different preferences.

Some Chinese dishes that are known to have higher sugar content include sweet and sour dishes, certain types of dim sum, and desserts like mooncakes or sweet bean pastes. However, it’s essential to remember that not all Chinese food is high in sugar, and there are plenty of options in Chinese cuisine that are nutritious and balanced.

If you are concerned about sugar intake, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the specific dishes you order and communicate your preferences to the restaurant staff to ensure a healthier meal option. As with any cuisine, moderation and a balanced diet are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

does Chinese food have sugar?

Yes, Chinese food can contain sugar, but the amount of sugar varies depending on the dish and the cooking style. Chinese cuisine is diverse and offers a wide range of flavors, including sweet, salty, sour, and umami. While some Chinese dishes may have added sugar to enhance sweetness or balance flavors, not all Chinese food is high in sugar.

Some common Chinese dishes that may contain sugar or have a sweet taste include sweet and sour dishes, certain stir-fry sauces, and some desserts. However, there are also many Chinese dishes that are not sweet and have little to no added sugar.

Traditional Chinese cooking emphasizes fresh ingredients and a balance of flavors, so many dishes feature natural sweetness from vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients without the need for additional sugar.

As with any cuisine, it’s essential to make mindful choices about the types and quantities of food you consume. If you are concerned about sugar intake, you can opt for dishes that are not sweet or request adjustments when dining at Chinese restaurants to suit your preferences.


Sugar holds a rich and symbolic meaning in Chinese culture, representing sweetness, happiness, good luck, and prosperity. Its significance can be seen in various customs, rituals, and art forms, where sugar is used to convey well-wishes, express gratitude, and bring joy to important occasions. Understanding the cultural significance of sugar enhances our appreciation for the depth and symbolism embedded in Chinese traditions.


Zhou Zhengqing, “An Introduction to Chinese Sugar Production Before the 16th Century,” Chinese Agricultural History, April 2003.

Ji Xianlin, “The Issue of White Sugar,” Historical Research, 1995, Issue 1.

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